Thursday, July 14, 2016

Ricotta Pancakes

These moist fluffy cake-like pancakes were featured in Bonappetit October 2015.
They get their moistness from ricotta; their lightness from beaten egg whites; and fresh flavour from lemon zest.
We don't like a lengthy process for breakfast so here's my simplified version.
Have all ingredients ready. Oil your griddle or frying pan.

Mix moist ingredients in one bowl:
Eggs, 4 yolks
Ricotta, one and a half cups
Milk, three quarters cup
Lemon zest, one teaspoon grated

Beat egg whites until fluffy, about 3 to5 minutes.

Mix dry ingredients:
Flour, one cup
Sugar, one teaspoon
Salt, barely a teaspoon
Baking powder, one and a half teaspoon

Whisk moist ingredients, add dry ingredients. Beat in fluffy egg whites.

Drop half cups of batter onto hot griddle. Flip when bubbly.
Serve with butter and honey or maple syrup (original organic from Canada here), and fresh fruit or stewed guavas.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Sweet Potato Rolls

This is adapted from the November 2015 edition of Bon Appetit magazine: Pull-apart Potato Rolls. It substitutes a plump Trini sweet potato for the large Yukon gold potato called for in the recipe. It is also simplified. Bread made with love and care is very forgiving.
Sweet potatoes grown by Narvin for the Green Market Santa Cruz

Choose a round or long sweet potato

Sweet potato, one large (mine come from Narvin in the Green Market Santa Cruz)
Milk, about one cup and a splash of goat's milk
Flour, about four cups
Yeast, one packet dried
Brown sugar, two heaping tablespoons
Eggs, 3 beaten
Salt, a tablespoon
Oil to grease pan
Butter to wipe on the tops of the rolls

Boil potato until a knife goes in easily. Peel and crush - use a potato ricer and remove stringy pieces.
Mix milk in crushed potato and whisk to remove lumps. Mix in one and a half cups flour, yeast, sugar. Mix to a sticky moist dough. Cover and let dough rise, approximately 30 minutes.

Beat eggs and salt.  Mix eggs and two cups flour into the dough. Add flour by handsful as you knead to a soft sticky consistency. Roll into a ball and cover. Allow to rise another 30 minutes or so.

Grease a baking sheet (approx. 9 by 13 inches or slightly larger) with vegetable/ coconut oil. Roll small balls (size of a small egg). Set out balls on the baking sheet almost touching: you should get 18 to 24 balls. Brush with butter and sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to rise for 15 minutes or so - while oven is heating.

Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Bake rolls for 15 to 20 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes or so before serving.

Sweet potato rolls

Anytime rolls with right amount of sweet and lightness

Friday, August 7, 2015

Pak cham kai or boiled chicken

Some Sundays, my mother would boil a whole chicken. Far from the plain pale dish that you might conjure in your mind, it was an economical but flavourful meal with noodles and a cornucopia of greens and vegetables that left you satisfied and feeling virtuous for having eaten so well so heartily and yet so simply.

Well before we used to enjoy Mummy's "pak cham kai" which she called it in the Cantonese dialect, our grandfathers were well-known for making one chicken serve the extended family. All parts of those chickens were utilised in the meal: from the comb (if it was a cock) to the feet; and included liver, gizzard, heart, lungs and cock's eggs. We children were well-versed in the anatomy of a hen or cock even though we hardly ever saw the leg, thigh or any part intact on our plates.

When this August (2015) issue of the Bon Appetit magazine featured Sichuan Chicken with Noodles (, I read with my taste buds and travelled back almost 50 years to my mother's kitchen. When my mother's grand-daughter in far-off Australia came down with a bad sore throat and cold, I imagined the remedy, the soup from a whole chicken replete with ginger, pearl barley, patchoi, lo bok (daikon, moorai, white turnip). I decided to make it.

Here's the 2015 version of my mother's Pak Cham Kai, or the more fashionable Sichuan Chicken with Noodles.

Whole Pak cham kai or Sichuan chicken, simmered with star anise and a bay leaf

Rice noodles and vegetables cooked in chicken broth

The Chicken
The wholesome chickens that are grown by my friend in Santa Cruz average four to five pounds cleaned. I prepare one of the smaller ones (four pounds) by making sure the inside is empty of lungs, kidneys etc; and salt overnight: one to two tablespoons salt applied in the cavity and the space between leg and breast.
Use a large pot for your whole chicken: this is an eight quart pot for a 4-5 pound chicken

The chicken is not "boiled" at high heat, but rather poached or simmered. In a large pot - I used an eight quart pressure cooker half full of water - bring the water to boil with three or four star anise; tablespoon of whole peppercorns; thumb-size ginger, sliced; scallions (or onion bulbs of chive); one-quarter cup of soy sauce. Place the whole chicken in the liquid - make sure it is submerged (add a little more water if necessary) - and reduce heat to simmer. Cook uncovered for an hour, turning chicken once. After an hour, remove the chicken to a plate and allow to cool. The chicken will have a natural glaze from its own fat.

The Rice Noodles
Use the broth to cook eight ounces of rice noodles. Usually these cook within six to eight minutes. Drain noodles from broth and sprinkle with olive oil (or sesame or grapeseed). Use the broth to cook your vegetables: broccoli; lo bok; carrots; patchoi; sweet peppers. You shouldn't need to add any seasonings. Drain vegetables and pile into the dish with the noodles.
Pile on vegetables that have been poached in the broth

Favourites here include broccoli, patchoi, sweet pepper

The Broth
You have the basis of a rich chicken soup, which may be enhanced with pearl barley; pumpkin, carrots, any vegetables or greens which you may have on hand. If the broth is a little salty, cube a potato and add it.

Serve the chicken sliced or jointed, accompanied by the noodles and vegetables.

Don't be fooled by how plain this meat looks. Flavour, fragrance and tenderness right to the bone.

Any chicken leftover may be used in sandwiches; or chicken salad. this chicken is infused with the fragrance of star anise which is the star ingredient alongside a wholesome farmed chicken.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Fudgy Coconut Chocolate Brownies

Here's a brownie mix that uses no dairy. Coconut oil and full fatted unsweetened chocolate deliver the rich flavours of coconut and chocolate.

Coconut oil (best quality you can find) 3/4 cup
Unsweetened (70%) baking chocolate, 4 to 6 ounces
Brown sugar, 1 cup
Vanilla essence, 1 teaspoon
Eggs, 3
Salt, pinch
Flour, 3/4 cup
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) 3/4 to 1 cup

Preheat oven to 350F. Line square dish with parchment; or grease with a spoonful of coconut oil.

Coconut oil from Tobago went into this batch of Coco Brownies!

Heat coconut oil over medium heat. Add chocolate and stir as it melts. Do not allow it to burn. Cool and add sugar, salt and vanilla essence (optional). Stir in eggs one at a time. Beat well - maybe 40 - 50 strokes. Mix in flour, stirring well. Add grated coconut.

Turn into dish and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool before slicing.

Coco-chocolate brownies: moist texture, coconut fragrance, chocolate chewiness!,

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Go Italian with focaccia!

Focaccia is an Italian bread made with olive oil and seasoned with herbs and sea salt. It's wonderful with salads, or just by itself with a saucer of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or a soft cheese. Over Christmas, we used it to soak up callaloo or the redbeany sauce of oxtails. Even those who don't like to put their hands in dough will enjoy kneading this bread. Cook in a hot oven (400F or 200C) and it's done in 30 minutes. This recipe is derived from the Bon Appetit or Epicurious on-line cookbook ( and will be perfect with the smallest effort.

Focaccia with fresh rosemary

Water, one cup (human warmth)
Yeast, one teaspoon
Salt to taste
Brown sugar, two teaspoons
Flour, three heaping cups plus some
Olive oil, quarter cup

For topping:
Olive oil, quarter cup
Rosemary, fresh crushed leaves, tablespoon
Chadon beni, 6 or 8 leaves clipped in small pieces
Sea salt, teaspoon

Add brown sugar and yeast to water and leave to ferment, 15 minutes to half hour.

Add flour and mix with olive oil. Knead the dough to combine well. Dust with a little flour if it is sticky. Olive oil keeps this dough silky and soft. Cover and set aside in a warm place to rise, an hour or more.

Punch down dough, dust with a little flour and knead. Cut in two to roll out. Or you may roll out in one large rectangle to fit your pan. I find it easier to roll out two smaller pieces. When rolling, leave the dough to relax for a few minutes as you shape it.

Grease pan with olive oil. Allow the dough to rise again, an hour or so.

Mix rosemary or shadon benie into olive oil with salt, for topping.
Heat oven to 400F or 200C.

When the dough has raised, use your finger to put a few indentations in the surface and spoon the olive oil topping over the top.

Bake for 30 minutes. The bread will be golden brown. Remove from the oven to cool. Cut into squares for serving.
Focaccia with rosemary just out of the oven

Focaccia with chadon beni - this went well with callaloo!

Monday, December 1, 2014

Tandoori chicken dinner

The tandoor is a clay oven used in India, which bakes meat (usually chicken) or bread at high temperatures. The clay (or dirt) ovens used in these islands - such as the oven in Castara Tobago - would be heated up by burning wood inside the clay shell. When the wood had burned away and the interior was extremely hot, bread or meats would be placed inside and the oven sealed for a couple hours.

The fragrance of the woods used to heat up the oven mingles with the food flavours. The high heat of the interior clay contributes to a crust that browns the outside while sealing and cooking the meat or bread.

Modern ovens might be able to replicate the heat, but are seldom fragrant. They provide steadier cooking temperatures, rather than heat that starts off very high (maybe 600 or 700 F  or 350+C) and then decreases as the food cooks.

Tandoori Chicken cooks quickly (30 - 45 minutes) at 450F to 500F (230C to 260C). At these high temperatures,  why not roast your vegetables - sweet peppers, pumpkin squash, ochroes, tomatoes - at the same time. If you prepare everything beforehand, this meal can be brought to table with less than an hour's cooking time.

Even the bread may be baked in the same hot oven, though it will require an hour's baking.

Tandoori flavoured chicken, roasted vegetables and fresh bread
Our menu for four featured
Tandoori Chicken
Vinegar Potato Wedges
Roasted sweet pepper and pumpkin squash
Fresh baked Bunty's bread

Chicken, whole, jointed and skin removed
(or six legs and thighs; or two large chicken breasts)
Yogurt, 1 -2 cups

Spice Rub:
Powdered paprika, 3 tablespoons
Ground cumin, 2 tablespoons
Ground coriander, 2 tablespoons
Salt, 1-2 tablesppons (or to taste)
Black pepper, fresh ground, 1 tablespoon
Sugar, 2 tablespoons
Ginger, thumb-sized piece, finely chopped
Powdered cinnamon, 1 teaspoon
Powdered cayenne, 1 teaspoon

Tandoori Chicken is spicy on the crust, sealing moist flavour in the meat. This is a delicious way to cook breast meat.  The preparation of the chicken is most important. The day before, skin the chicken and cut slashes into the legs and thighs. (Save the skin to render on the stove top: you can make crisp chicken skin and cook vegetables and noodles in the flavourful oil.)

If you are using a whole chicken, keep the three parts of each wing together; separate the legs and thighs, cut across the the back into two (keep neck on the upper part); cut the breast into six pieces (in half along the middle, then two cuts across); and slice through the thickest parts of the meat to insert the spice rub.
Seasoned chicken arranged on a grill over a drip pan

Mix all ingredients for the spice rub together, and rub into the meat. Mix in 1- 2 cups yogurt.  Refrigerate overnight. If you put the seasoned chicken with yogurt into a large ziploc bag, you can turn the bag over to make sure the chicken is well-coated. Allow to marinate overnight.

Heat oven to 450F (230C). Put meat on a grill over a drip pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until browned and fragrant. Over-cooking will dry out the meat.
Tandoori flavours feature an intricate blend of spices sealed in with  yogurt, cooked at high heat

Pumpkin squash, 4 or 5 slices
Sweet peppers, 4 large ones, halved and seeds removed
Onion, large, peeled and sliced

Olive oil, enough to drizzle over all vegetables
Coarse salt, to taste
Black pepper, fresh ground

Arrange pumpkin squash, onion and sweet pepper in a tray. Salt and pepper liberally. Drizzle liberally with olive oil. Roast in the oven with the chicken for 25- 30 minutes: the vegetables may be cooked on a lower rack in the same oven.

Sweet peppers, pumpkin squash, ochroes, even tomatoes, melongene may be roasted alongside the meat.

This is a delicious and easy side dish to roasted meat.

Potatoes, one medium (or two small) potato per person 
Vinegar, one cup (I use celery vinegar, but apple cider or plain white vinegar may be used)
Salt, teaspoon or to taste
Cooking oil (coconut oil preferred), 1 -2 cups

Scrub potatoes. Cut into four or six wedges (depending on the size of the potatoes). Cover with water, one cup vinegar and salt to taste. Bring to the boil and continue to cook for ten to 15 minutes. Potatoes should still be firm. Cool and drain.

Potatoes are partially cooked - still firm - by boiling in a water-vinegar mixture.
Heat oil in deep pot, keep at medium heat. Add potato wedges (or half at a time) and turn with a slotted spoon. Cook at medium heat until the potatoes are golden brown. Drain on absorbent paper. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Serve these potato wedges as a snack with tomato ketchup. Or with roasted meat and vegetables.
Vinegar gives these potatoes their deep rich flavour.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Easy peasy pizza

This is one of those easy to make snacks or meals. If you have fresh tomatoes - and maybe you've already had enough tomato choka - and a bit of cheese, knead a small piece of dough and make a pizza. It doesn't have to be round to be a square meal!
Two square meals: cut up one and freeze the other for another day!

Flour, 2 cups
Water, one cup
Brown sugar, tablespoon
Salt, teaspoon
Yeast, half teaspoon

Add sugar and salt and yeast to water in a bowl. Allow to froth, about five minutes. Add flour and mix well. Knead, adding a dusting of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Set aside to rise, about an hour. Punch down and allow to rest for half hour. Cut in two and roll out on a floured surface. Rest the dough as you roll it: this makes it more elastic.

Tomato sauce:
Tomatoes, six
Basil or thyme
Salt, pinch
Onion, one small chopped
Garlic, two cloves chopped

Wash tomatoes. Squash tomatoes. Bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes. Or microwave for six minutes. Mix tomatoes with thyme, salt, onion and garlic. If your tomatoes have a lot of juice, it's better to roast them. Otherwise, if you microwave them, you should strain off some of the liquid.

Best plum tomatoes: juicy and flavourful!

Cheese sauce:
Ricotta, one cup
Parmesan cheese, one cup
Black pepper, teaspoon

Mix ricotta and grated parmesan cheese.

Place sauce over the sheet of dough. Drop cheese mixture by teaspoonsful over the sauce.
Bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees (200 C) for about 30 minutes.

Cheesy topping made with ricotta and parmesan. This could be any kind of cheese, but parmesan is good.

Pizza can be stored in slices in the freezer. Simply reheat the slices in a toaster oven for ten minutes.

Slice as you like: slabs or bite-size squares!